History of the Houston Marathon

Houston’s first marathon took place in December 1972 on a five-mile loop with a parked station wagon marking the turn. The 113 runners feasted on beef stew after the race–and several even washed the dishes. Forty volunteers (many of whom are still volunteering) and a spectator crowd conservatively estimated at 200 people, five dogs and three cats cheered the runners on. Thirty-eight years later, the Chevron Houston Marathon ranks among the world’s best and is acclaimed as one of the city’s premier civic events.

The 2013 race marks the eleventh running of the companion half marathon, with Aramco Services Company returning as title sponsor. The 5K run rounds out the race weekend running events, offering a popular distance for those raising funds for local charities.

On 2013 Race Weekend, 25,000 runners are expected at the start lines of the three races, representing virtually every state in the U.S. and more than 20 countries. On the 26.2-mile journey along a fast, flat course, marathoners run past scenic Bayou City neighborhoods, including the historic Heights and Montrose areas, past Hermann Park and Rice University, over to the famed Galleria shopping area, and then head up by Memorial Park to Allen Parkway, finishing downtown on Rusk Street at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The Chevron Houston Marathon combines a competitive athletic event with a citywide festival of community spirit. Runners and spectators enjoy miles of non-stop entertainment provided by the unique “Hoopla Brigade.” Professional and not-so-professional performers ranging from jump-rope squads to jazz bands to belly dancers encourage runners to keep their feet moving in the right direction. (The Houston Marathon pioneered the concept of “Hoopla” and other races have duplicated its success.)

In the past 40 years, nearly 240,000 runners have challenged the course, with many returning year after year. They are cheered on by more than a quarter of a million spectators, making the marathon the city’s largest single-day sporting event. Some 7,500 volunteers help coordinate every phase of the race, quite literally from start to finish.

The Chevron Houston Marathon has been repeatedly selected for many world-renowned road-racing competitions, including the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 USA Men’s Half Marathon Championship; the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 USA Women’s Half Marathon Championship; the 1998 USA Women’s Marathon Championship; the 1992 USA Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials; the 1979 USA Men’s and Women’s Marathon Championships; and the 2012 U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Trials.

Participants in the Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon, ABB5K and Bank of Texas Team Challenge are encouraged to “Run for a Reason” and raise money for local Houston charities. The marathon, half marathon, 5K and team challenge provide established fund-raising vehicles that allow all money collected to go directly to the official participating non-profits. In 2009, runners raised more than $1 million for Houston-area charities bringing the total raised to almost $8.6 million donated in the 14 years of the Run for a Reason program. In 2012, runners raised $2.3 million!

The Chevron Houston Marathon is administered by an executive committee of volunteers and involves more than 7,500 additional support volunteers. The race is a founding member of Running USA, a joint venture of leading American road races and USA Track & Field.